The Meaning of "Diet:" A Cross-Cultural Comparison between American and Italian Food Cultures and Links to Obesity

Open Access
Zahuranec, Diana
Area of Honors:
Nutritional Sciences
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dorothy Ann Blair, Thesis Supervisor
  • Rebecca L Corwin, Honors Advisor
  • food culture
  • obesity
  • interviews
  • history
  • industrialized food
  • food industry
  • diet
  • lifestyle
  • quality
  • quantity
  • Mediterranean diet
  • anthropological
This research examines the discrepancy between the rising obesity rate in America and the focus on dieting by comparing American and Italian food cultures. My hypothesis is that in State College, Pennsylvania and Lewisburg, West Virginia, Americans’ perception of diet exemplifies the fundamental difference between American and Italian food cultures because Americans see diet as an action with weight loss intent, while Italians see it as a lifestyle. It is this seemingly small cultural difference that embodies the different relationships between consumer and seller, and consumer and food, in both countries. It shows the importance of past and contemporary influences in affecting the modern-day diet of a country’s culture, and thus the health of the country’s populace. The American and Italian food cultures are complex and intertwined with a myriad of influences which I am unable to cover within the scope of this research. This is primarily an anthropological study of both contemporary cultures, with my observations and responses guiding the similarities and differences between American and Italian food cultures and the links to rising obesity rates.